Tuesday 9 August 2011

Stinky! by Ian Whybrow and Lynne Chapman. Review by Penny Dolan.

Oh dear! Having, in my comments on Paeony Lewis' thoughtful post, agreed with the need for quiet, calm picture books for young children, this title doesn't fit into that category. Yet I do agree with her, because what children need is a range of books to fit different moods and times. 

I chose Stinky because of the writing and because of the illustrations. Obviously, but what does that mean?
In picture book texts, what I look for is a certain amount of playfulness, a sense of the changeability of language, a hint at the difference that intonation can make as well as a certain poetic and rhythmic quality that makes the words sound alive in the mouth or the head.

I like moments of repetition because that is where I find children - whether being read to, reading themselves, or maybe both - can join in with the story-making.  Those moments are where they enjoy predicting and recognising what’s coming next, and where they learn about the literacy game, the “let’s pretend” of a book.  I am also, I must admit, easily lured into a picture book by an element of quirkiness.

This is why – and please don’t back away – this review is about a book with the full title of "Stinky! OR How the Beautiful Smelly Warthog Found A Friend."

The writer, Ian Whybrow, is known for the Harry and the Bucketful of Dinosaurs series, However, way before that, Whybrow wrote a marvellous chapter book “Little Wolf’s Book Of Badness”, where sweet, caring Little Wolf is sent to learn from Uncle Big Bad how to be a truly Bad Wolf and a credit to his parents. (Quotes such as “Fib Your Head Off” still resound in our family house at times of crisis.)

Stinky! is written with a similar sense of fun. Being a little warthog, Stinky is sweet but smelly. Mrs Crocodile and then Mrs Monkey ask Stinky over to play with their own little darlings. Stinky is as well behaved as can be but his aroma attracts swarms of “the tickly, quickly flies.” Havoc, blame and sadness follow. Only when Mrs Littlebird asks the now-bewildered Stinky round to play with her little baby is there a happy, insectiverous ending.

Stinky may not be the book for all children in every circumstance, nor for all grown-ups. Sweet it isn’t, but I’m sure many young children, especially boys, will laugh and enjoy the joke. It's an ideal book to borrow from your local library - if you still have one, that is.

The bold, cheery illustrations – another reason for my choice – are by the artist Lynne Chapman. Her brightly coloured work appears in a host of popular picture books, including Class Two At The Zoo by writer Julia Jarman so you will know that Lynne’s choice of pastels as her medium is anything but “pastel”. The pages of Stinky, like all her other books, vibrate with colour and are all worth looking out for.

Additionally, if you are a writer, illustrator, or just interested in picture books in general, do visit Lynne Chapman’s website, www.lynnechapman.co.uk, a truly value-for-viewing website. It has short videos about how she makes her books, and her blog gives an insight into the variety of work in an illustrators daily life, as well as pages from her sketchbooks and information about Sketchcrawl projects.

Meanwhile, if you’re anywhere up north, there’s an exhibition of Lynne’s work at Salford Art Gallery. Great for young children on summer holiday too, I suspect, but on till November 6th. And not stinky at all.

ps. For anyone alarmed by this double set of picture book titles, the next Awfully Big Review will not be a picture book. At all.

Penny Dolan



Paeony Lewis said...

Don't apologise for reviewing picture books - good ones are wonderful!! I'll look up Stinky when I go to the library. Thanks for sharing Lynne Chapman's link. I'm going to be tutoring a picture book writing evening class and for an illustrator's pov that will be useful to watch.

Sue Purkiss said...

Yes - no need to apologise for reviewing picture books - I don't think we hear enough about them. I was lucky enough to have Lynne illustrating my first three chapter books, and Class Two At The Zoo went down terrifically with number one grandson - so this is another book to look out for.

Emma Barnes said...

Having been to a talk by Lynne Chapman recently, I appreciate her artistry all the more. What an immense amount of thought, planning and careful craftsmenship go into the wonderful images.

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